Lurie Children’s Hospital Expert Calls for Prioritizing Research Focusing on Reducing Mortality (REFORM)

May 12, 2023

Need for a coordinated approach aimed at reversing declining life expectancy in US


Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP, a population health expert at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, proposes a more holistic approach to reducing mortality across the lifespan. In his commentary published in JAMA Health Forum, Dr. Davis calls for national prioritization of research that looks for connections across the leading causes of mortality, rather than research on diseases in isolation. He suggests that this effort be dubbed Research Focusing on Reducing Mortality (REFORM).

Highlighting the importance of REFORM, Dr. Davis points to increased death rates for nearly every age group in 2021, compared with 2020, which were related in part to COVID-19 and several other causes as well. In the US, life expectancy (76.1 years) is shorter than in similarly wealthy and sociodemographically diverse countries – for example, Canada (83 years).

“In the past, the United States has prioritized national research focusing on specific diseases or disease categories, such as the Cancer Moonshot and COVID-19. But to improve survival across many diseases and age groups, we need a broader approach that will connect mortality-focused research across federal institutes, institutions and investigators to help them move further and faster,” said Dr. Davis, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Lurie Children’s and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Causes of mortality are often similar with respect to groups at risk and the social factors that exacerbate disease. We need to improve health equity and life expectancy, especially in historically marginalized groups that currently bear too much of the mortality burden.”

Dr. Davis calls for a mortality-focused initiative that spans from laboratory-based basic science out to the community level. To have the biggest impact, it would need to be a priority for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies, such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

“Decreasing life expectancy in the United States is a clarion call to collective action in the research community,” said Dr. Davis.

Dr. Davis also is the Executive Vice President and Chief of Community Health Transformation – Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities at Lurie Children’s and the Founders’ Board Centennial Professor in Pediatrics. He is Professor of Pediatrics (Advanced General Pediatrics and Primary Care), Medical Social Sciences, Medicine (General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics) and Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted through Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training medical center for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.